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Who was Edmund Rice?

Edmund Rice arrived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony about 1638. Our first record of his presence is in Township Book of the Town of Sudbury in the year 1639.  Regrettably, no ship's passenger list has survived and we have no record of Edmund Rice and his family before 1639 so we can not be certain when or where he and his family arrived in the New World.

Knowing the names of Edmund Rice's children at Sudbury, family historians have traced his family back to England using church baptismal records for his children and, eventually, to his marriage to Thomasine Frost on 15 October 1618 at Bury St. Edmunds. However, we have found no record of his baptism or any other record that names his parents. Read more about the search for Edmund Rice's ancestry.

As yeomen farmers Edmund Rice and the other early settlers at Sudbury were well prepared for the tasks of forming and governing a new community. As yeomen they had assumed both personal and community responsibilities back in England. As Protestant churchmen they had been encouraged to read and write so that they could study and understand their Bible. Although not of the noble class, they had shared many community and church responsibilities in their former communities in England.

Edmund Rice was one of the prominent leaders of his community at both Sudbury and Marlborough. In his Pulitzer Prize winning book, Puritan Village, The formation of a New England Town, Sumner Chilton Powell sums up the high regard that his fellow citizens had for Edmund: "Not only did Rice become the largest individual landholder in Sudbury, but he represented his new town in the Massachusetts legislature for five years and devoted at least eleven of his last fifteen years to serving as selectman and judge of small causes." and "Two generations of Sudbury men selected Edmund Rice repeatedly as one of their leaders, with the full realization that they were ignoring men of far more English government experience who had come with him." If your ancestry goes back to Sudbury, be sure to read Powell's superb account of the development of this New England town in the mid 17th century.

Although much respected by his fellow townsmen, Edmund seems to have had an independent side to his nature. In 1656 Edmund Rice and others petitioned the Massachusetts General Court for a new town which became the City of Marlborough. Edmund moved his immediate family and was elected a Selectman at Marlborough in 1657. Later generations of Rices were founding members of many new communities, first in New England and Nova Scotia, and later across the United States and Canada.

Like many early New England families, Edmund Rice's family was a very large one. Of his twelve children, ten survived to have children of their own. Edmund Rice's descendants through his great great grandchildren number nearly 1,450. This pattern of large families seems to have continued well into the 19th century. The result is that many living people can trace their ancestry to Edmund Rice.

Copyright 2014, Edmund Rice (1638) Association, Inc.. All rights reserved.
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